Positive energy territories invent a new energy landscape

Energy landscapes, transitional landscapes
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“Redesigning landscapes means modifying our identity, it reveals the consequences of our human activity and of our public policies.”

An interview with Yannick Régnier, manager of the national TEPOS network, in charge of Energy and territories within the CLER (network for an energy transition) - excerpt from the guidebook "Paysages de l'énergie, paysages en transition". (Energy landscapes, transitional landscapes)

Is landscape a preoccupation for positive energy territories?

Positive energy territories (the TEPOS) are often described by the following metaphor: they invent a new energy landscape. Taken literally, it is also true. New concepts appear in a redesigned/reconsidered territory: density of constructed areas, transport infrastructures, external insulation, positive energy constructions, solar, water and wind generators, methanization and networks… But reflection on the link between landscapes and energy transition has only just begun despite this question being fundamental. “Redesigning landscapes modifies our identity, it reveals the consequences of our human activity, of our public policies.”

How can the attitude to decentralized energy production be altered?

It cannot be done without citizen support. The perception of the organization of the landscape by the inhabitants is strongly connected to their attitude towards the territory and to their appropriation of the project. Alain Cabanes, a former president of the community of councils of the Haut Vivarais (Ardèche), was at the origin of the wind turbine park of the Citadelle. He clearly outlines the question of transparency before the “introduction" of a production unit: “I was afraid of discovering, at the point where the construction of the park was due to begin, that people did not know about the project." [1] The involvement of the greatest number of people on such a project is paramount: this implies a preliminary landscape analysis, consultation during the development stage and continuous information over a long period.

Can energy become a feature of the identity of the territory?

It is important for the projects to be integrated to a coherent, shared territorial strategy. A project of positive energy territory can have a strong impact on the territory by creating activity and employment, by optimising local savings, economising energy, requalifying constructed heritage and building the pride that comes from mastering both the production and cost of energy… The territory of Mené sent 2014 New Year greetings in the form of a photo of the inauguration of the participative wind turbine plant. The registration of the slagheaps and mining territories (in the Nord-Pas de Calais region) with the UNESCO World heritage, at the initiative of the town of Loos-en-Gohelle, shows a cultural landscape previously considered a drawback, can become an incredible opportunity. The adventure of energy can and must define the identity of a territory. It shapes lands, whose products are no longer exclusively agricultural.

How do you see the expected evolutions in rural and urban territories?

As they have more renewable energy sources, the signs of the production of energy will be more visible in rural territories. This solidarity with urban areas, which have fewer natural resources but a larger share of human and financial resources, will be assumed by a renewed territorial governance. Each type of territory will meet their own needs before dealing with the others according to its means and possibilities. Besides, within urban areas that are widespread and have many suburban zones of activity, a change in urban design practices, taking into account energy economy and efficiency will lead to both energy transition and an improvement in the quality of landscapes. 

[1] Extract of the short film “Des éoliennes dans mon paysage” (wind turbines in my landscape) coproduced by the AMDA and Volubilis